B. Poverty Contributes to FGM in the West

“Women do two-thirds of the world's work . . . [y]et they earn only one-tenth of the world's income and own less than 1 percent of the world's property. They are among the poorest of the world poor.”

Poverty and the feminization of poverty play a major role in the migrating of FGM to the West. Professor Richard Robbins wrote the following in 1999: “The informal slogan of the Decade of Women became ‘Women do two-thirds of the world's work, receive 10 percent of the world's income and own 1 percent of the means of production.”’ He added to this by stating,
At the same time that women produce 75 to 90 percent of food crops in the world, they are responsible for the running of households. According to the United Nations, in no country in the world do men come anywhere close to women in the amount of time spent in housework. Furthermore, despite the efforts of feminist movements, women in the core [wealthiest, Western countries] still suffer disproportionately, leading to what sociologists refer to as the “feminization of poverty,” where two out of every three poor adults are women.”

The frightening fact is that, over the last decade, little has changed with respect to the economic status of women.
Seven out of 10 of the world's hungry are women and girls, according to the UN World Food Program. When women are afforded the equality of opportunity that is their basic human right, the results in terms of economic advancement are striking. The Economist estimates that over the past decade, women's work has contributed more to global growth than China. The East Asian “economic miracle” of unprecedented growth from 1965 to 1990 offers an example of how all elements of the poverty puzzle must fit together. Gender gaps in education were closed, access to family planning was expanded and women were able to delay childbearing and marriage while more work opportunities increased their participation in the labour force. The economic contribution of women helped reduce poverty and spur growth. Being deeply affected by poverty, women also hold great potential to end it. But until their potential is recognized [p819] and realized, women will remain the missing piece of the poverty elimination puzzle, and will not fully enjoy the benefits of the economic growth to which they contributed.

Poverty brings with it an imperative to marry. In many of the countries where FGM is practiced, a woman cannot “make a marriage” if she is viewed as unclean. Therefore, in order to be able to marry a daughter off, she must undergo FGM to be acceptable, not only to the new groom and his family, but to the society in general.

Many times the poverty, which caused a woman to leave her native land, follows her to her new homeland. Poverty, coupled with social isolation, narrows the choices that a woman may believe that she has. Also, the ties that bind immigrant women to their native country are strong and enduring.

If some Western nations offer few financial supports to new immigrant women, they must in turn rely on some support from their family back home. As a result of relying upon support from family, there is pressure to conform to traditions.